What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is a stimulating and nutritious beverage from South America. It is brewed from the leaves of a small tree native to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. In many parts of South America, yerba mate is much more popular than coffee. People from all walks of life share yerba mate with friends and family on a daily basis.
In North America, yerba mate has a niche as a cutting edge energy herb, but in South America yerba mate is everywhere! You see grandmothers sipping yerba mate at bus stops. Teenagers sipping yerba mate outside night clubs. Families sipping yerba mate at the beach. The grocery stores have a yerba mate aisle with about thirty different brands.
Sharing yerba mate in a circle with friends and family is a ritual of hospitality.
1. Yerba Mate Provides Healthy Stimulation
Gram for gram, yerba mate has about as much caffeine as green tea. Not all caffeines are the same, however. The caffeines found in coffee, green tea, and chocolate have slightly different chemical structures and effects on the mind and body. Yerba mate contains a mixture of these three caffeines. It also provides minerals to support nervous system function, as well as B-vitamins to relax muscles. Here is a blog post discussing yerba mate and caffeine in greater detail.
2. Yerba Mate Aids Weight Loss
Yerba mate receives a lot of press as a weight-loss tea. While nothing can replace a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a great attitude, yerba mate can certainly give you a boost:
- Yerba Mate raises metabolism.
- Yerba Mate regulates appetite, encouraging a healthy diet.
- Yerba Mate aids digestion.
- Yerba Mate is thermogenic. "Thermogenic" means that it actually induces the body to burn calories.
- Yerba Mate provides antioxidants, minerals, amino acids, and B vitamins to support a healthy lifestyle.
Click here to read about yerba mate and weight loss in more detail.
3. Yerba Mate is Super Nutritious!
Yerba Mate is a nutritious stimulant. Check out the nutritional value of a mug of EcoTeas yerba mate tea:
6 G of loose yerba mate in 8 OZ of water
4. Yerba Mate is Packed with Antioxidants
When brewed as directed, our pure leaf loose yerba mate provides an ORAC value of 10,000 µmolTE/240ml, which is five times stronger than a typical cup of green tea.
5. Yerba Mate Elevates Mood
Yerba mate is more than just an all-naturalenergy drink. When consunmed regularly and in balance, it has a positive effect on mood over the long haul.
6. Yerba Mate is Less Acidic Than Coffee
A cup of yerba mate brewed at medium strength yields a pH of around 5.5. Be aware that differences in brewing method and water quality will cause variation. For best results, use filtered pH-neutral water and don't steep longer than five minutes.
7. Yerba Mate is Naturally Low in Fluoride
If you are concerned about the high fluoride content in green tea, yerba mate might be a good alternative. Yerba mate has a lot less fluoride than green tea. An 8 OZ cup of ECOTEAS yerba mate brewed with one 2-gram tea bag yields 0.021 MG of fluoride, which is only one-fifth the fluoride content of the average cup of green tea brewed at similar strength.
Yerba Mate Scientific Studies
Would you like to learn about the health benefits of yerba mate in greater detail? Below is a small sampling of the scientific literature:
- Advances in Yerba Mate Health Research
- Yerba Mate Antioxidant Power
- Yerba Mate and Weight Management
- Yerba Mate and Inflammation Inhibition
- Yerba Mate and Breast Cancer Risk Reduction
- Yerba Mate and Bone Density Improvement
- A Comprehensive Overview of Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate Preparation
Delicious yerba mate tea is easy to brew if you follow a few simple tips.
Moisten Your Yerba Mate First: Before you add hot water, moisten your tea bags or loose yerba mate with cold water. This will protect the flavor and nutrients.
Avoid Boiling Water: Boiling water makes bitter yerba mate tea. Simmering water (around 170F) is ideal.
Five Minutes: Avoid over-steeping yerba mate tea. Five minutes is the right amount of time.
If you are using tea bags, simply add one or two bags to a mug, splash in some cool water, and top off the mug with simmering hot water.
Loose yerba mate is also easy to brew. We often tell beginners to pretend they are making a cup of coffee, but use loose leaves instead of ground beans. Add a tablespoon of herb per cup of hot water. Percolators, French presses, espresso makers, strainers, and tea straws all work great.
Yerba Mate is delicious all by itself, but many people like to flavor it. It's an incredibly versatile herb, and it goes great with milks, sweeteners, juices, and other herbs of all kinds. You can make a yerba mate latte, a yerba mate chai, or a yerba mate iced tea with lime. The possibilities are limitless!
The Traditional Yerba Mate Sharing Circle
Once you get the hang of brewing yerba mate, chances are you'll grow curious about the authentic South American yerba mate experience. In order to share a yerba mate gourd with a circle of friends and family, you'll need a thermos or pitcher, some loose yerba mate, a tea straw, and a gourd.
Fill a thermos or pitcher with hot (but not boiling) water.
Next, fill a cured gourd about ⅔ with loose yerba mate.
Tap the yerba mate to one side of the gourd to create a “little mountain” and a “little valley” inside.
Moisten the “little valley” with cool water. Just a splash. Don’t flood the “little mountain.”
Gently insert the filter tip of the tea straw into the “little valley.”
Pour hot water into the “little valley” about halfway up the gourd, still keeping the tip of the “little mountain” dry.
Sip this first pour right away. Make sure the tea straw is flowing well. Make sure the water is the right temperature. Drink until there is no more water left in the gourd.
Now you are ready to pour sips for the friends and family in your yerba mate circle. Each person receives a half-full gourd. They sip right away, drinking all of the tea until the straw gurgles. Then they pass the gourd back to the pourer for refilling.
Traditionally, only one person does all the pouring for the group. This person is called the “cebador.” She will keep pouring for each person in turn until the hot water runs out or the herb runs out of flavor, then replace them as needed.
Avoid touching the straw! Stirring makes all the herb steep at once, and it can also make the straw clog. One of the cebador’s most difficult jobs is to gracefully discourage newcomers to the yerba mate circle from touching the straw.
Sharing Tereré, a Tropical Yerba Mate Treat
Tereré is another authentic yerba mate experience that you may have heard about. Basically, tereré is an ice-cold variation of the yerba mate circle. Tereré is very popular in tropical South America, especially after siesta. It’s incredibly refreshing. Here's how to make it:
Fill a pitcher with water and ice.
Stir in some fresh lime juice and sweetener to taste.
Fill a small metal or glass cup with loose yerba mate.
Insert a tea straw to the bottom of the cup.
Pour, share, sip, repeat.
Our ECOTEAS Yerba Mate Source
We source our organic, fair trade yerba mate from a four-generation family farm in the state of Misiones in northeastern Argentina. To read the story of how we discovered this beautiful farm, go here.
We coined the term UNSMOKED to describe the unique drying method that our farmers employ, which uses warm air instead of the typical wood smoke to dry the leaves after harvest.
After drying, our yerba mate is aged for a minimum of nine months to allow the flavor to mellow.
Our family farmers are committed to ecological farming. Their traditional methods leave dense corridors of native forest intact. We have partnered with our farm to plant thousands of native trees within the yerba mate groves to create shade, stabilize soil, and promote biodiversity.
Fair trade dollars from the sale of ECOTEAS yerba mate have funded a variety of projects including infrastructure development, school construction, health care access, and a village playground.
The Botany and Ecology of Yerba Mate
Yerba mate comes from a small tree in the holly family (Ilex paraguariensis). It is native to a region of northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and eastern Paraguay called the Matto Grosso, or Interior Atlantic Forest.
While Argentina’s share of this forest is only about the size of the US state of Connecticut, it contains over 80% of the country’s biodiversity.
This land is home to the toucan, the jaguar, and a dazzling array of flora. Please choose an organic yerba mate brand that is grown in harmony with this magical land.
Why is Organic Yerba Mate More Expensive?
Malesa is the Spanish word for weed. Conventional yerba mate production frequently uses heavy applications of herbicides to control weeds. Organic yerba mate cultivation relies on fairly-paid workers with machetes. We think the extra cost of organic yerba mate is worth it... for the land, for the workers, and for our bodies.
How Do I Cure My Yerba Mate Gourd?
With love and patience. And these instructions.
What Does the Word "Yerba Mate" Mean?
Yerba (yair-buh) is the Spanish word for Herb. Mate (mah-tay) is from the Native American Guarani language, and it means Cup. Yerba Mate means Herb of the Cup.
Many North Americans think Yerba Mate is the brand-name of a tea company. Still others refer to Yerba Mate drinks as Yerbas. Both of these are incorrect. When referring to the actual tree, Argentines say Yerba Mate. When referring to the dried herb ready for brewing, they say Yerba. And when they are talking about the drink, they say Mate.
Another common mistake is people spelling Yerba Mate with an accent over the final e. This actually translates as "I killed the herb."
While you don't need to speak like a local to enjoy yerba mate, we hope this helps you feel more comfortable!
Should I Choose Pure Leaf or Whole Plant Yerba Mate?
Pure Leaf Yerba Mate has more caffeine and is more expensive. It's great for brewing in a coffee maker, French press, or espresso machine. Whole Plant Yerba Mate is more mild (suave in Spanish). It's great for drinking traditional-style with a bombilla. You can read more about the differences here.
Can I Re-Use Yerba Mate Leaves?
Yes! Although your tea will get less flavorful and potent with each pour. When drinking yerba mate traditional style, one drinks many small pours of yerba mate in a cup containing a large amount of tea.